I've to start off with a disclaimer. I'm probably the least qualified to be making this thread to give advice on commercial photography. But this is my 2 cents I can afford to give back to the community I had benefitted from. This is a feeble attempt to "educate" those who need advice on making money. Hopefully, a more consolidated one where other professionals and experienced part-timers can correct me where I am wrong, and add on to what I have to say.
Another disclaimer is, the intended audience of this thread is for the uninitiated. If you are experienced professional, part-time photographer who have already established your own business practices, feel free to correct me, or add on. It's not meant to dispute your practices.
The intention of this thread is for those who want to gain more experience, more exposure by going into commercial photography. Here, I loosely define commercial photography as paid photography.
You have your nifty DSLR and some assortment of lens you are pretty happy with. You got a few keeper shots at your cousin/friend's wedding. You bought a light tent and some basic lighting setups and did some product shots you're happy with. You had been shooting runways at Junction 8 and was pleased with what you saw. In a nutshell, you feel ready to take on the world of commercial photography. Hey, I enjoy doing it, why not make some money while doing it right? Cover my investment!
As with all paid services, the payer has certain demands and expectations. These expectations could be straightforward and explicit. But some demands could be tacit and only surface when 'things go wrong'. I'll go into this list of 'things gone wrong' later. The demands can be in terms of the number of shots. The angles of shots, the colours, digital enhancements, prints, print sizes, form of presentation, punctuality, time-extension, change in dates. It would be good to come up with an exhaustive list as far as possible on what is expected of the deal, as well as agreed clauses to defend your interests, and allow your client to add on. Please add on the list of obligation from here.
Consequences of not fulfilling obligation:
I'll let 'pros' like vince fill in the legal obligations, or the lack of here. One of the other consequence is reputation. This is applicable to those who are more serious who want to consistently take on more assignments. For not fulfilling the obligation or expectation of the payer, the degree of hurt can vary. It can hurt very badly for wedding photography. The word gets circulated amongst brides faster than an expensive ad in the magazine. And the bad reputation can last for a long time. It wouldn't bother you if you're just in for a quick thrill and quick buck. But if you're serious about making it your part time job, or even full time career, it is extremely difficult to rebuild a hurt reputation. At least for wedding photography. Feel free to add on other consequences from here.
What can go wrong?
It could be as simple as your flash not working. Or your CF card failed you. Failure of CF cards is a major nightmare for photographers. As well as hard disk crashes. Frequent backups and transfer of data from old storage devices to new ones are a good idea. Also bring sufficient CF cards in case you encounter an exceptionally rich event to cover. Plan for the focal lengths your require for the shoot, which is often dependent on the venue. Also be prepared that the DSLR can suddenly stop working. Or the CF card you brought home after the shoot doesn't have any images in there. Or you don't have enough batteries for the flash or the body. Or the lens AF mechanism failed, and you are lousy with MF. It can be other people interfering with your shoot. People in the way doesn't mean you don't need to deliver. What happens when people get in your way? What happens if you cannot tell this people off or push them away? Predict and pre-empt these situations. Experience can help. Otherwise you need to be quick to react and respond on the spot.